St Henri is a time-honoured and alternative expression of Shiraz, and an intriguing counterpoint to Grange. It is unusual among high quality Australian red wines as it does not rely on any new oak. It was created in the early 1950s (first commercial vintage 1957) and gained a new lease of life in the 1990s as its quality and distinctive style became better understood. Proudly, a wine style that hasn’t succumbed to the dictates of fashion or commerce. St Henri is rich and plush when young, gaining soft, earthy, mocha-like characters as it ages. It is matured in old, 1460 litre vats that allow the wine to develop, imparting minimal, if any oak character. Although a small proportion of Cabernet is sometimes used to improve structure, the focal point for St Henri remains Shiraz.
A welcome wet winter and a moderate, dry spring encouraged steady early season growth, setting up for a text-book harvest. Cool and dry conditions during the start of summer were described as perfect, conducive to excellent flavour, colour and phenolic development. A record 15 day heatwave, starting on the 3rd March created a major interruption, inducing a vintage of two distinct halves—a statement pertaining to the profound differences in quality of fruit picked before and after the heat spell. “Weighted-average vintage charts may not do justice to the South Australian harvest in 2008. Penfolds reds will.”